A story about inner beauty - and not knowing what you've got until it's gone.
"Love is not just a function of the eyes.
Beautiful objects will, of course, inspire
Possessive urges- you need not despise
Your taste. But when insatiable desire
Inflames you for a girl who’s out of fashion,
Lacking in glamour- plain in fact- that fire
Is genuine; that’s the authentic passion
Beauty though, any critic can admire."
-Marcus Argentarius(20 B.C.- 30 A.D.)
Ronald Jackson stood outside the apartment door, waiting
anxiously while Jennifer fumbled with her keys.
“Sorry," she said with a giggle. “Trust me, it’ll be worth the wait," she said.
Ronald was sure she was right. He’d met Jennifer at work two months ago and was immediately captivated by her.
It all began as stolen glances across the floor of the factory in which they both worked, then progressed to casual flirting and later, to secret, steamy touches…and now to her apartment.
Damn, thought Ronald. How did I get lucky enough to bag a babe like Jennifer?
All the guys at work were hot for her, yet she had chosen him. Jennifer was 5’8”, with long legs, long silky brown hair, blue eyes and a killer body. When they first began talking, Ronald had told her he was married and asked her if it would be a problem.
“No," she said flatly. “If she was satisfying you at home, you wouldn’t be looking at me." Then with a laugh, "She’s probably not much to look at, huh?”
“Not really," Ronald had said, instantly feeling a guilty ache in his heart for saying such a thing about Anna, but it was true.
He had met Anna five years ago through mutual friends. Jack and Nancy Ryan were always trying to play cupid for their friends. They were so happily married, that they felt that everyone else should be also.
“You gotta meet this girl, Ron,” his friend Jack had told him. “She’s just the sweetest thing.”
“But how does she look?” Ronald had asked.
“Ron, sometimes looks aren’t what’s important. She’s got a good heart.”
Ronald had laughed. “That’s your way of telling me she’s a dog, right?”
“Not at all," Jack replied. “Anna’s cute, real cute. A little chunky, but cute nonetheless. But it’s her heart that sets her apart from the rest. She’ll make you a good wife someday, my friend. Trust me, someday you’ll be thanking me for setting the two of you up.”
Ronald seriously doubted it, but agreed to meet Anna anyway.
He was pleasantly surprised by the fact that Anna wasn’t as bad as he’d first expected. In fact, she was rather cute, just as Jack had said. Anna was 5’3”, with blonde hair and jade green eyes that sparkled when she smiled, which Ronald noticed was quite a lot. She was “chunky”, as Jack had said, but not obese. Fat women were a major turn-off for Ronald, who considered himself to be quite well-built. Never had any complaints from the ladies, anyway. Although not what you would call fat, Anna wasn’t the type of woman Ronald was looking for. He wanted a hot-looking woman, someone who would make his friends green with envy. Nevertheless, he had asked Anna out and they began dating.
They had been going out about a year, when Ronald finally popped the question. Anna’s eyes had welled up with tears as she whispered, “Yes, oh yes, Ronald." And that was that.
They’d had a small church ceremony with just immediate family and a few friends, which included Jack, whom they had both decided should be Ronald’s best man.
Pulling Ronald aside just before the ceremony, Jack had said,
“I knew it would happen sooner or later. I knew you’d see the true value of a good woman instead of judging them all solely on looks."
“Um, yeah, right." Ronald had muttered, and hugged his best man.
He couldn’t very well tell Jack that he had slept with as many hot women as he could while he and Anna were dating. Jack would tell him he was a jerk, and Ronald really didn’t want to hear it. He was doing it for Anna, as a matter of fact, trying to get it out of his system.
It would have broken her heart if she had known the things he’d done, but Ronald felt that if he could rid himself of his addiction for beautiful women, then settling down with the not-so-beautiful Anna wouldn’t be so hard.
Even so, after they were married, Anna found several notes from women that Ronald had either been seeing or had wanted to get together with. Ronald yelled at her for being so nosy and told her that that if she wouldn’t snoop, she wouldn’t get hurt, so she had no one but herself to blame. Once, while she sat on the bed, tears streaming down her cheeks, Anna looked at Ronald sadly and said,
“You don’t love with your heart, Ronald. You love with your eyes."
“No, no, no!" he had said, and began kissing away her tears.
But deep inside, he knew that she was right. Then he thought about how many times he’d thought about other women as he made love to her, and he felt ashamed.
Jennifer opened the door and they stepped into the apartment.
“Take off your coat. You can freshen up if you’d like, the bathroom’s just down the hall to your right."
“Thanks," Ronald said as he tossed his jacket onto the sofa.
Not long after he had closed the bathroom door and turned on the faucet, Ronald’s cell phone, which he kept in his jacket pocket, began to ring.
Instinctively, Jennifer knew it was his wife, so she decided to answer it.
“Hello?” she said sweetly.
A confused and shaking voice on the other end said “Who is this?”
“I’m the woman you can never be," Jennifer said coldly. “The woman who keeps Ronald satisfied."
She heard a click and with a laugh, hung up the phone and slipped it back into Ronald’s jacket.
It never ceased to amaze Jennifer how easy it was to end the marriage of any man she wanted for herself. They all would tell her in the beginning that they were married, and she would think smugly to herself, Well, not for long.
Her own mother had once said to her “Why don’t you find a man of your own and stop acting like a shameless slut?”
Those words had hurt her, but Jennifer had chalked it up to the fact that her mother wasn’t an attractive woman and was jealous, as most women were, of her. Jennifer liked her lifestyle and all the things it afforded her. Men liked to buy beautiful things for her, and she certainly wasn't going to let her conscience get in the way. She also knew her looks wouldn’t last forever, and she planned on getting all she could while she still had them.
Ronald was standing in the bathroom, looking at his reflection in the mirror when he heard a knock on the door.
“Everything all right in there?”
“Yes," he answered. “I’ll be right out."
But as he stood looking at his face in the mirror, Ronald knew that things were not alright. "What the hell am I doing?" he asked himself. In his mind, he played out the events from the night before.
He and Anna were getting ready for bed, when out of the blue she asked, “Are you happy with me?”
Ronald had hugged her and said, “Yes, Sweetheart, of course I am.”
But from the look on her face he knew she wasn’t convinced.
“Anna," he had said “I’ve had beautiful women in my life, women who looked so good I couldn’t believe how lucky I was to have them. But their hearts weren’t beautiful. You’re beautiful on the inside, and that’s all that matters. Looks aren’t all that important anyway.”
Anna merely nodded, turned off the light and pretended to be asleep, but Ronald could tell she was crying. Angrily he had muttered, “Whatever," and turned over and went to sleep.
Now, standing here, hearing his own voice inside his head, he thought, My sweet Anna, how that must have made you feel.
Then his mind traveled back in time, to all the things she had done for him. How she took care of him when he was sick. How she would get up at 3 AM, no matter how tired, if he asked for a glass of water or a sandwich. When he had lost his job last year, she had never gotten upset. She never pointed a finger to blame him, even when times got tough, only prayed for him to find a better job, which he did. When he stayed out late, sometimes all night, she never yelled. Instead, she would be waiting up with a hug and a kiss and whisper, “I’m so glad you’re safe.”
His friend Jack had once told him, “Sometimes God sends us angels, and He sure did when He sent you Anna. You’re a lucky man, Ron."
All of his friends liked Anna, and told him how lucky he was to have such a good woman. Most of them had married the women of their dreams, women who turned out to be mean, vindictive and sometimes even adulterous. Most of them were divorced by now. So yes, he was lucky.
“I wanted to be the envy of all my friends, and I didn’t even know I already was." Ronald whispered sadly.
Here he was with a woman he hardly knew, when he had such a good woman at home, patiently, lovingly waiting for him.
He shook his head and said, “I can’t do this," and walked out of the bathroom.
Jennifer lay on the bed, naked. “I’ve been waiting for you," she said huskily.
For the first time in his life, the sight of a gorgeous woman’s body did nothing for Ronald. The only body he wanted to see was Anna’s, all soft and sweet, cuddled up beside him. Tonight he would tell her how much she meant to him, and for the first time, when he made love to her, it would be only to her, mind, heart and soul.
Putting on his coat, he said, “I’ve got to go.”
“Nooo, don’t go!" Jennifer purred.
She came over to where he stood and began kissing his neck, letting her hand slide down to his crotch. Nothing stirred. She whispered in his ear, “You know you want me."
“No," Ronald said.
“What I want is to go home to my wife. She’s probably worried sick.”
Jennifer laughed coldly, “Oh, more than you know."
“What do you mean?” Ronald asked, eyeing her cautiously.
“Well,” Jennifer said slyly, “While you were in the bathroom, your wife called.”
She laughed again, and the sound gave Ronald chills as he realized what Jennifer was saying.
“She sounded upset,” Jennifer said, sounding both amused and pleased with herself.
“Oh my God," Ronald said. “What have you done?”
“Saved you from a dreary marriage," Jennifer said, her voice as cold as stone. “And from another day of having to look at that hag.”
Ronald stared at Jennifer and finally saw what she was- a scheming, heartless, manipulative person. How could he have hurt Anna over someone like this?
“You’re not upset because of what you’ve done," Jennifer said, as if reading his mind. “You’re just upset because wifey found out. What’s done is done, might as well enjoy yourself now.” And with a giggle she added, “Your things are probably out on the lawn by now anyway.”
“Garbage," Ronald said. “That’s what you are. Pure garbage.”
He slammed the door amid a burst of laughter. He heard Jennifer yell, “Call me!" followed by more laughter.
Ronald drove fast, wanting to get home and explain. Nothing happened, he’d tell her, and it would be the truth. But it didn’t matter. Anna was no fool. If he hadn’t wanted something to happen, he wouldn’t have been there. Anna was his best friend, and he was going to lose her.
He remembered his mother’s words, “You’ve got a good one, Ronald, don’t ever let her go.”
How could I let this happen? he asked himself.
He thought about their life together, the life now shattered, because of his lust. He thought about how badly they had both wanted a child, and how every month Anna would come out of the bathroom, a sad look on her face, and shake her head before going into the bedroom to cry. At first he would go in and comfort her, tell her they would keep trying, but finally he had just given up and let her grieve alone. He wasn’t going to give up this time, though. He wouldn’t give up on their marriage, and he could only pray that Anna wouldn’t give up on it either.
He would change. He would never take her for granted again; never let another woman come between them. If only she would give him that chance.
“I am so stupid!” he said aloud, slamming his fist down on the steering wheel.
“How am I ever going to make this better? How can I mend her heart?”
Ronald pulled into the driveway, afraid of what he might see. To his surprise, there were no clothes strewn across the lawn. That’s a good sign, he thought.
He went into the house and saw no signs of a fit of anger and betrayal. Everything was where it should be. What he did find was a note on the bedroom table that read,
“My dearest Ronald, I am going to stay with my sister until I can get a place of my own. Please forgive me for making your life hell. All I ever wanted was your happiness and I pray you find whatever it is that you’re looking for. Maybe in time we can talk and work things out, but I just need time now to think. I’ll call you soon. Your Loving Anna.”
That’s when he noticed that many of Anna’s clothes, along with her suitcase, were gone from the closet. Ronald read the note several more times before he laid it back on the table.
“She’s gone,” he said. “My sweet Anna is gone.”
With shaking hands he picked up the phone and dialed her sister’s number. When her sister told him that she hadn’t arrived and that she had started to worry, Ronald got scared.
“It’s been close to an hour," she said. “She should have been here by now."
Ronald jumped in his car and took the route that Anna had always taken when she visited her sister’s home. He couldn’t shake the feeling that something was wrong. As he topped the hill, just a few miles from the home he shared with Anna, his heart was frozen in fear. The flashing of red and blue lights shone up ahead. The lights from police and rescue units.
“God, no. Oh please God don’t let it be her!" Ronald whispered, his voice not even sounding like his own.
But as he drove closer to the scene, he saw that it was Anna’s blue Toyota Celica, the one he had bought her just last spring, twisted and mangled around a tree on the side of the road. Ronald let out a grief-stricken cry as he jumped out of his car and ran toward the wreckage.
A police officer in a rain poncho grabbed Ronald and held him firm, telling him he didn’t want to see this; that she was gone. Ronald fell to his knees in the mud from where the car had started to skid.
“No," he said, sobbing, his face in his hands. “Not my Anna, not my sweet Anna!”
He stood up and while the officer was turned away talking with one of the rescue workers, Ronald ran to the twisted metal that once was Anna’s car. He looked inside and saw her, his loving wife, dead behind the steering wheel. One of the limbs from the tree had pierced her throat and there was blood everywhere, but to Ronald she looked as if she were merely sleeping.
Suddenly he realized how beautiful his Anna truly was. Eyes closed, a peaceful, serene look on her face.
No more pain, no more tears, not for her. Now Ronald was the one in tears, and as he wept, he laid his head on Anna’s shoulder, wanting to take her into his arms and tell her how much he loved her, how much he needed her. But it was too late.
The police officer that stopped him before came to where Ronald was kneeling, beside his sweet Anna, and gently pulled him away from the car. Ronald heard the officer telling him that the road was wet from the rain, and that Anna must have lost it in the curve. Or perhaps she swerved to avoid a deer.
Or maybe her eyes were too full of tears to see the road. Ronald thought to himself, bitterly.
Either way, his Anna was gone, lost to him forever. As he stood there in the rain, his heart feeling as if it was being torn from him, Ronald knew he would never forget her. She was everything to him, and now he was nothing without her.
Even now, he heard Anna’s voice, soft but distinct, saying,
“You love with your eyes, Ronald. You love with your eyes.” Ronald wept.
God had called His angel home. Her good heart, which once was broken, now lay still.
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